Lady Alma put music aside until viral South African video of her song revived it

A stranger lip-syncing to one of her songs in South Africa has propelled a Philadelphia singer to resume her career.

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Lady Alma is a Philadelphia-based, house music singer whose career is restarting after an international viral video. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Lady Alma is a Philadelphia-based, house music singer whose career is restarting after an international viral video. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Thanks to a viral video, Philadelphia-based singer Lady Alma is performing again after a decade-long hiatus.

Her return to the limelight started in the South African city of Pietermaritzburg at 033 Lifestyle — a popular hangout where people can have their car washed, eat some barbecue and listen to live house music on Sunday nights.

Koketso Mothapo, a South African DJ known as The General De Kok, recorded a video there in July of a man passionately lip-syncing to a song — Lady Alma’s “Let it Fall.”

“When I saw the guy singing the song, I was like, ‘Wow,’” Mothapo said. “I was just blown away. I was just shooting somebody who was appreciating the music.”

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Mothapo uploaded the video (below) to Facebook, and it went viral with more than 17 million views to date.

Though he did not know Nhlaka Mncwabe, the man singing in the video, Mothapo said they have since talked.

“He heard the song when he was 16 years old,” Mothapo said. “And he was going through a rough patch … that is why he sang that song with passion because it really uplifted him.”

“I was just floored,” Lady Alma said she heard about the video on Twitter. “At the time, it was more about him vibing to my music and lip-syncing exactly like me.”

Lady Alma built a career singing soulful house music, beginning in the late 1990s.

Philadelphia-based DJ King Britt featured her and then-partner Tanja Dixon on his debut album “When The Funk Hits the Fan.” They sang on the remake of a 1980s dance classic “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.”

This launched her solo career, propelling Lady Alma to sing on stages around the world from London to Seoul, South Korea.

Nearly 10 years ago, she put music on hold. Her mother fell extremely ill, and Lady Alma became a full-time caregiver. The new role was emotionally and mentally tough, and that’s when she wrote the song “Let it Fall.”

“At the time when I wrote the tune, I was not writing it for the world. I was writing it to heal myself,” Lady Alma said. “It was therapy in a sense for me.”

Her mother died in 2017.

“She has opened a path for me to get back to music,” Lady Alma said. “I took a back seat for 10 years after writing that tune to take care of her. And I think that she was ready. I was ready if she was ready.

“And I think she made it open for me to get back to helping heal the world.”

Lady Alma, who will appear Thursday at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, credits the viral video, Mncwabe and Mothapo for her return to music.

“So here I am now, and I’m working and I’m very grateful for the song and for Nhlaka and The General for showing me how music, how house music, just touches people in other continents,” she said.

Lady Alma said she continues to message the two men on social media. And hopes to meet them in person someday.

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